In music production, lightning or even video, XLR cables are of utmost importance. Professionals use XLR cables for varying purposes. In audio recording, they make up an important part of a producer’s equipment.
The main-spread use of XLR cables is in great part related to their two main advantages over other cables. First, they are balanced cables, meaning that the final audio signal will have less unwanted noise from outside electrical interference.
Second, they can carry line level signals over long distances. What this signifies, is that they preserve the original audio signal over long distances, and even near other electronic devices.
In this article, we go through the particularities of XLR cables before giving you a list of the best available XLR cables.
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XLR Cables | Guide & Recommendations
How do I use an XLR cable ?
The process is fairly simple. With every XLR cable you have three little pins on the male side, and three little slots on the female side. Microphones go into the female side. Conversely, the male side will be plugged into your mixing console or audio interface.
In what circumstances should I use an XLR cable ?
Owing to its main quality, a balanced signal, the XLR cable is best suited for live sound applications and studio recording applications. More specifically, when a mixing console is more than 25 feet away of a performer, it is appropriate to use an XLR cable.
Furthermore, for studio purposes, XLR cables are used to connect most microphones. Usually, microphones will require a power source to function. Mixing consoles and audio interfaces provide this power which is called “phantom power”.
XLR cables are the cables that allow mixers and audio interfaces to deliver phantom power to microphones. They are some of the rare cables which are able to do this.
Reviews | 5 Best XLR Cables:
Pros & Cons
Clear and consistent audio quality
No interferences or static noise
The cable can be defective (rare)
Less thick than other cables
The GLS Audio XLR cable is an incredible value cable. It offers a professional quality and a performance that will surely impress you. The sound quality this cable produces is fantastic. Compared to other XLR cables in the same category, the quality of the audio is clean, consistent and crisp. Moreover, there is no noticeable interference or scratchiness. When talking about the tonal range and sensitivity of the signal which are produced by this cable, you won’t be disappointed.
Regarding manufacturing, the XLR connectors are as solid as they can get. Additionally, the resistance of the cable is ensured by a thick, rugged, well-built and well shielded cable. Notwithstanding, the cable remains a flexible rubber cable. Moreover, the joint area where the XLR plug attaches to the cable is positively secure and looks resistant. In terms of customer service, GLS Audio is apparently always available, and, according to clients, the brand will replace defective cables if needed.
Pros & Cons
Two cables for the price of one
High quality manufacturing
No unwanted interferences
The cable can be defective (rare)
In the same line as GLS Audio, Cable Matters has delivered a cable which provides optimal sound quality. There is no noticeable interference noise with this cable. According to the brand, it is the copper braided shielding that provides maximum cancellation of hum and noise. Moreover, the polyethylene insulation improves high frequency response. The thickness, but overall flexibility of the cable demonstrates its quality. Manufacturing quality is also visible through the solidness of the metal connectors.
Side note: Comes in different sizes (3, 6, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35, 50 feet). We recommend the 6 feet or 15 feet version.
Furthermore, the AWG oxygen-free copper construction of the cable, its individual wire insulation, foil shielding, and soft PVC jacket all contribute to the overall excellent fabrication. Strain relief on the connector and gold-plated XLR pins are two further features which make this cable outstanding. Once again, clients have mentioned a great customer service. When they were deficient, cables have been replaced. Last but not least, each pair comes packed in a nice box and thoughtful packaging is always appreciated.
Pros & Cons
Quality components and fabrication
5 year warranty
Comes in different colors (the only on our list)
White noise, and static pops
Difficult to disconnect from microphone
Probably one of the best studio options on our list, the LyxPro XLR cable delivers supreme signal transfer and crystal-clear high frequency transmission. The excellent sound quality it produces is coupled with an impressive performance with maximum noise rejection. In other words, the sound is clean to the point that it will please the most demanding audiophiles.
Our opinion is that this cable offers transparent results, a present bass, a full midrange and sparkling highs in terms of sound quality. No noticeable interference can be distinguished. Quality of fabrication will satisfy most users. A heavy duty protective insulation, solid connectors, and the 24 AWG Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) contribute to a satisfying sum. The cable is very flexible, but still feels thick and sturdy. It is also worth mentioning that this XLR cable model is available in a variety of different colors which are actually good-looking.
Pros & Cons
Flexible PVC Jacket
Connectors can feel lose
Metal button doesn’t work as well as on other XLR Cables
As all the other cables on our list, the AmazonBasics XLR cable is a great option for studio recording and live sound. Component-wise, the material that has been used for the wire exterior is very resistant whilst remaining flexible and easy to wrap and bundle. The connectors are of great quality and very solid. Nonetheless, some users have complained that the connection between the cable and their microphone can be tight.
One additional comment we could make is the fact that the metal button on the end end doesn’t work nearly as well as some other XLR cables. Other than that, the cable is well insulated and easy to store. The quality of manufacturing is also very high, with all copper conductors and inner copper spiral shielding. This type of manufacturing reduces interference and excess noise. Nonetheless, this cable doesn’t have gold connectors. But, who needs them anyway ?
Pros & Cons
No interferences or hiss
High quality connectors/ superior signal transfer
Some users have complained about poor shielding
The O ring makes it hard to get a lock on some equipment
With its HMIC-01 XLR cable, Hosa has delivered an outstanding product. Right off the bat, it is important to note that Hosa has made sure that they make their cable connectors to industry standards. Why is this important ? Simply, because it is not always the case. In that sense, the cable features rugged metal connectors and a chuck-type strain relief. The type of manufacturing featured here isn’t seen too often on cables of this price range. All the components used here are top-notch.
Moreover, the quality of manufacturing is enhanced by the actual wire that is being used. The latter is a very heavy two-conductor shielded cable. In turn, this makes the cable much more resistant. Also being very well insulated and shielded, you won’t notice any interference or hiss with this XLR cable. As a result, the audio you will record will sound great.
Side note: Comes in different sizes (3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 50 or 100 feet)
Additional considerations about XLR cables
If XLR cables should be balanced for professional purposes, it is worth mentioning that all devices in your working chain should be balanced.
For example, if an audio device in your chain is unbalanced, it will cause the whole sign chain to be unbalanced. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, you should always verify if the manufacturer has mentioned the balanced signal of the device.
What are the main components of an XLR
XLR cables have three pins and a circular connector. Their connectors are rugged electrical connectors. It is precisely because of their resistant manufacturing that these cables are considered as reliable and are used by most audio and video professionals. An essential part of the cable are its connectors. This will often determine the quality of the cable. Moreover, the three pins on the connector stand for positive, negative and ground.
Other XLR cable parts you will find are an insulator, fillers, a shield and an outer jacket. Whilst some of the latter elements are of lesser importance, the shield should be fabricated with high-end material that can appropriately protect the pristine signals that are passing through the cable from any interferences and noise. The material that is usually employed for the manufacturing of the shield is metal-based (i.e: tin-plated copper)
When comparing the XLR cable to other cables, it is easy to find similarities with the Tip Ring Sleeve (TRS) cable. However, the difference here is that TRS cables are very similar to standard-jack cables and don’t have both a female and male connector.
What is the difference between balanced and unbalanced cables?
In balanced audio cables, you will find three different wires that serve as conductors. These are negative, positive and ground. By carrying the audio signal at the same time, but with opposite polarities, positive and negative wires cancel out any noise from outside interference sources. Most of the time balanced cables (like XLR cables) are used because they are adapted to audio applications that necessitate long lengths (over 25 feet).
Unbalanced cables, on the other hand, have only two wires that serve as conductors. It is actually the same one that will carry both the signal and the ground. Less expensive than balanced cables, they have their fair share of downfalls. One of the most important one is the fact that they are exposed to noise caused by interferences from nearby electrical fields or devices. Therefore, unbalanced cables should not be your first choice for audio applications that require long cables.
Whilst all of these cables are excellent for audio recording purposes or live performances, the GLS Audio XLR cable can be considered as the best one of the list. Its great value can be underlined by a combination of extreme resistance, very high noise cancellation and the delivering of a fantastic audio quality. Sturdiness is not a substitute for flexibility with this cable since it proves to be one of the most flexible ones.
Moreover, GLS Audio customer service appears to be very honest and respectful according to clients. We hope that this article on the “best XLR cables” has informed you well enough on the components and functions of an XLR cable. It is essential for us to make you understand how beneficial this product can be for your studio recording and live performances.